Choosing the Best Dining Option

Celebrity Cruise lines has become our preferred cruise line and we have been very happy with the service and quality provided on every cruise we have taken. During this last cruise on the Reflection however, we experienced an issue with the main dining options available. The staff quickly and to our satisfaction resolved our concerns, but hopefully our end of cruise feedback will help them consider refining their main dining reservation options.

Here’s the story.

Celebrity, like most cruise lines, offer fixed dining options with an early seating at 5:30 p.m. and a late seating at 8:30 p.m. in the main dining room Opus. They also offer an Anytime Dining option, on the second floor of the main Opus dining room, but for which there is no reservation time. The idea is you show up, they take your name and party’s number and unless there is a table available immediately, you take a “button” which rings when your table is ready.

We always select Anytime Dining when booking a cruise, on any of the cruise lines. The early dining option is too early for us because we like to spend the late afternoon pool side listening to music and relaxing after the heat of the day. The late dining option is too late. Dinners usually take about two hours which means it is nearly 10:30 p.m. before you are finished. Thus we have missed the late theatre showing at 9 p.m. and most of the  evening’s activities. It is also too late to eat a three course meal and try to get a comfortable night’s sleep; at least for us.

Usually we try to arrive for dinner at 7 p.m. and in our experience, you can expect to wait about 30 minutes for a table. However, that is not what happened on this cruise. The first evening we arrived at 7 p.m. and were seated in 25 minutes; check. The second evening, we waiting one hour and 15 minutes for a table and on the third evening we waited 50 minutes. And it wasn’t just the wait time. The staff seemed extremely rushed and stressed, which led to the less than stellar service we had come to expect from Celebrity.

Not wanting to experience the same through the remainder of the cruise, our group decided to speak to the Maitre D’ and perhaps consider moving to the 8:30 p.m. fixed dining option if that was the only thing they could suggest to resolve the situation. Not ideal, but at least we would know what time to expect dinner and would not spend an hour each evening waiting for a table. Looking down from our table on the second floor of the dining room, we could see that the 8:30 seating was not fully utilized.

We voiced our concerns with the Maitre D’ who was quite apologetic and quick to resolve the issue. Instead of moving us to the late dining option, which we would have taken but did not really want, they gave us a fixed reservation of 7:30 p.m. for the remainder of the cruise at a table hosted by one of their seasoned waiters. Once again, we were impressed with Celebrity’s customer focus and willingness to resolve an issue quickly. Not only did they address our concerns, they went above that by offering us one of their best serving staff in order to ensure our dining experience for the rest of our cruise met our expectations for Celebrity.

However, although we were quite pleased with this resolution and our dining experience for the remainder of our cruise was exceptional, we were concerned with the fact that we had now been given an option that was not available to the rest of the passengers. Every time we were led past the line up of passengers waiting for tables to be seated at our “reserved” table at 7:30 p.m. our conscience told us this was not an ideal solution.

This may have been a unique experience during which the mix of passengers that chose fixed dining versus anytime dining was different than what Celebrity had expected, but I believe they need to address the overall reservation system. Some cruise lines offer passengers the ability to reserve a dining time one day in advance so they can at least plan ahead and not have to wait for a table. This option is not currently available on Celebrity. You can book a table one day in advance, but only for seating times before 6 p.m. or after 8:15 p.m. Celebrity also does not have dining reservations for the main dining room available on their onboard app.

Another option may be to have a third fixed dining option for seating around 7 to 7:30 p.m. and stagger the dining tables available for an early, mid and late dining time. I am not aware of a cruise line that offers this so perhaps there is a logistic reason why this would not work. But we did notice that the late dining time was not fully utilized on this last cruise with many open tables still available.

These are the options I suggested in my after cruise survey. I am sure there are more ideas and I would love to hear about your ideas and dining experiences while cruising.

Download my ebook, How to Get the Most Out of your Next Cruise and read all my top recommendations for planning and enhancing your next cruise experience.

Five Tips to Keep Up your Fitness Routine while on a Cruise – Celebrity Cruise Day Two

Five tips to maintain your fitness routine on a cruise

I cruise at least once a year; many years twice and although I thoroughly enjoy the food, the drinks and social atmosphere with friends, I try to keep up at least a partial fitness routine.  It’s now day two of our 10-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection and since I am training for a half marathon later this year I hope to continue my running program while onboard.

It is very easy just to forget working out while you are on a cruise; sleep in late and then laze around all day, but maintaining your fitness routine is important to your overall well-being.   Here are a five tips that I use to stay on track as much as possible.

Order coffee and a light breakfast to your room.  Each night, place the room service card outside your cabin door requesting coffee or other beverage and a light breakfast.  This will get you up in the morning and provide enough energy to get you going.  Room service, except late night dining, is usually free on most cruise ships.

Get up early.  It is your vacation so give yourself a bit of slack, but if you keep to your normal routine as much as possible and get up around your usual waking time it will be that much easier to head to the gym.

Try the jogging track.  Most cruise ships will have an outdoor jogging track on the top outside deck.  The Celebrity Reflection has a 200 meter track on deck 15 used by both runners and walkers.  If you are a runner, try going around 7 or 8 a.m. to avoid the congestion from more relaxed passengers out for a morning stroll.  It will also be more comfortable before the temperature starts to rise too much.  Jogging track on a cruise

Check out the fitness classes.  On day one of our cruise, I visited the fitness centre on deck 12 and picked up the fitness class schedule.  Each day, the centre offers a variety of classes such as abs workouts, spinning classes, yoga and stretching classes.  Some of the classes are at extra cost, but you can usually find numerous free classes to either keep up with your usual routine or to try something new.

If you want to use the fitness machines, go later in the day.  The fitness centre onboard is really busy, especially from 7:30 to 9 a.m.  The treadmills, elliptical sand bikes are plentiful but are hard to secure during the busy morning period.  If you want to run on the treadmill or use the other machines, I would recommend waiting till midday or just before dinner when less people are using the facilities unless you up and ready to go super early.  On port days, the centre tends to be less busy all day.

Check back often to view my daily posts from the Celebrity Reflection during the cruise. Or sign up to receive email notifications to receive advance notice of my posts.

Download my ebook, How to Get the Most Out of your Next Cruise and read all my top recommendations for planning ajnd enhancing your next cruise experience.

Celebrity Reflection – What I’m doing Day One

You would think that I could follow my own advice, but instead we ended up arriving at the cruise terminal an hour late and right at peak time; 12 noon. Bad idea. Two hours later after winding our way through the queuing crowd, we board the Reflection.

At least with the delay we didn’t have any problems finding a table for a late lunch at the patio directly outside the Oceanview Cafe on deck 14. The patio is large, mostly covered, and offers a wonderful view of the ship’s wake on the ocean. I recommend it for either breakfast or lunch as well as a place for sail away.  I will get to that in a minute.

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Celebrity Reflection – What I’m Doing 7 Days from our Sailing Date

Our 10-day Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Reflection is only seven days away. I can’t wait to board the ship and spend the next ten days taking full advantage of Celebrity’s hospitality while sailing our way through the sunny Caribbean.

Using some of the tips from my Ten Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Next Cruise and with only a week to go, here are the preparations I have been focused on:
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How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Cruise

How to get the most our of your next cruise

 

Cruising is like no other vacation. With a staff providing impeccable service available to cater to your every need, multiple dining options with unlimited amounts of food and drinks, numerous activities and entertainment options plus the ability to visit scenic and tropical destinations cruising is definitely addicting.

Between website reviews, travel blogs, brochures and articles there is a lot of information available about cruising; from the best itinerary, the best ship, the best cabin, the best packing list and how to get the best deal. But from all the “top ten lists” and “best cruise hacks”, what is the most important advice that will actually help you get the best value as well as the best experience on your next cruise?

In How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Cruise, I have gathered together the top recommendations and most valuable tips that will help you make the most of your next or your first cruise vacation. I have boiled down the plethora of information into what is most important for you to consider when booking your cruise, how to take best advantage of your time onboard, as well as what features and options are good value for the money and what are the biggest wastes of money while cruising.

This book will not walk you through the entire vacation planning and booked process and it will not try to convince you that cruising is right for you. What it does do is cut through all the tips and information to give you the very best recommendations to help you plan and enjoy your next cruise vacation. Because luxury, yacht, river and other high end cruises have their own unique experiences and features, I will stick to the seven major cruise lines that operate in North America.

Download my ebook, How to Get the Most Out of your Next Cruise and read all my top recommendations for planning and enhancing your next cruise experience.

Cruising No Brainer – Join the Loyalty Program

Nearly seventy percent of cruise line passengers are repeat cruisers so each major cruise line offers a loyalty program that includes a variety of incentives to entice passengers to remain loyal to the brand.

The benefits for repeat customers include reduced fares, priority check-ins, cabin upgrades and special amenities. The benefits can really add up since the programs offer accumulating incentives either by the number of sailing days or the number of cruises taken.

Membership in cruise line loyalty programs is free. So whether you intend to take one or a hundred cruises, it makes sense to join the loyalty programs on each of the cruise lines you book. Typically the perks add up the more often you cruise, but even one or two cruises on the same cruise line can lead to free perks. As well, some of the programs allow you to transfer your points between the brand’s sister cruise lines. For instance, if you sail on both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, you could combine your points from the two loyal programs leading to a higher tiered status in your preferred program. If you build up enough credits in the one program, you could be eligible for a free cruise.

The benefits of loyalty programs vary by cruise line but membership in all the programs is guaranteed to have its privileges. Here is a snapshot of the loyalty programs offered by major cruise lines operating in North America.
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Celebrity Reflection – 30 Days from our Sailing Date

Thirty days from now, my husband and I depart on our next cruise, a 10-day Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Reflection, and I have started cruise planning with gusto!

After trying several deferent cruise lines, we have settled on Celebrity as the best fit for our particular needs. We travel with three or four other fifty-plus couples and we find that Celebrity tends to attract passengers most aligned with our demographics. The cruise ships are tastefully decorated and the entertainment and activities onboard are diverse enough to give us plenty to do. The ships also offer sufficient laid-back pursuits such as piano bars, movies on the back deck and isolated retreats to fulfill our need for relaxing, leisurely days. The dining and quality of service experienced on Celebrity is exceptional and they certainly live up to their reputation for upscale ambiance without the luxury cruise line price.

Using some of my tips from my Ten Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Next Cruise and with a month to go before the cruise, I have entered full cruise planning mode and have so far completed the following preparations:
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BOOM® by Cindy Joseph

All the cosmetics you need in three little sticks!

I have tried a lot of cosmetics and brands, from drugstore to luxury, looking for that one beauty routine or brand that I truly love. Some items I stick with because I really see the benefit but others I drop either right away or over time because the brand is too expensive for too little results.

When I first saw the advertising for BOOM® I thought it was too good to be true; all the cosmetics you need in three little sticks! But I liked the concept and the approach that Cindy Joseph was taking. Cindy was a make-up artist in the fashion and beauty industry for over 20 years and is now, at the age of 60, a professional model. BOOM products are formulated from her knowledge and experience of what ingredients are safe and effective versus ingredients that are “so-called natural” that merely add complexity and cost.

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How to Simplify Weekly Meal Planning & Preparation

I am a busy person and there are lots of things that I want to accomplish in a day. But in order to have time for the personal pleasures I want to pursue like painting, reading, gardening or exercise, in addition to a full-time job, I have to simplify the many other tasks that take up my time; like meal planning and preparation. How many hours do I spend on grocery lists, shopping, planning, prepping and cooking meals! And how many times do I come home from work to be met at the door with the inevitable, “What’s for dinner?” If I didn’t happen to have a plan or prepared something in advance, we would end up eating less healthy and more expensive takeout meals.

Here are a few ideas that I have incorporated into my life to simplify weekly meal planning and preparation so that I have time to pursue more rewarding activities, while still preparing healthy, wholesome meals for myself and my family.

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Ten Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Next Cruise

Cruising is like no other vacation.  Being catered to night and day, an unlimited amount of food and drinks, impeccable service, a multitude of activities and entertainment options plus visiting scenic and tropical destinations is definitely addicting.

Here are ten of my best tips to get the most out of your first or next cruise.

1. Select the Right Cruise Line

Although there are many cruise ships to choose from, each cruise line offers a distinct cruise experience. When choosing a cruise, it is important to choose one that will fit your lifestyle and what you are expecting from your vacation.

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